POULSBO — Pamela Bellesen, artist and owner of Wide Mouth Frog Designs, has spent nearly 20 years cultivating her business.
What started as a craft session during a weekend getaway in Port Townsend developed into a lucrative retail and wholesale jewelry endeavor. But Bellesen will be the first to tell you: creating the mass inventory for distribution, balancing the books and staying enthusiastic for customers from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week is hard work.
Before the storefront opened at 18850-A Front St., Bellesen traveled with her work to art shows, farmers markets and craft fairs.
“I was home 11 days in 2009,” she said. “The rest of the time I was sleeping in my van and peeing in a bucket.”
Bellesen, who said she received her training from the “University of Barnes and Noble,” laughed as she said, “I don’t take myself seriously at all, but my art and my business I do take very seriously.”
That’s why it was with a heavy heart that Bellesen has decided to close her doors Dec. 31, after three and a half years in downtown Poulsbo.
Though Bellesen plans to relocate the wholesale side of her business back to her 484-square-foot studio in her home, she said she will miss the interaction of working downtown.
“I’m trying to be calm and positive,” she said. “Happy is my baseline nature but it’s been a really tough year to keep up our pace … It’s been an unbelievable amount of stress. I haven’t had the time to stop, slow down and relax.”
The company, starting at Bellesen’s kitchen table years ago, has jewelry in more than 250 retail shops around the country, including boutiques, hospitals, the Ansel Adams Gallery in Belmont, California, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the United Nations building, to name a few.
“There was something about the energy of the beads,” she said. “It’s the texture, the colors, but I thought, ‘Maybe if I can add something of my own to it.’ ”
That’s when Bellesen found her passion in metal work, especially silver.
“It was like a cloudy day, then the sky parted and the sun shone through the trees when I touched metal for the first time,” Bellesen said. “Life has never been the same since then.”
What originally was planned as a source of income upon retirement for the Bellesens transformed into a creative cash-crop.
“I realized then I needed to stop chasing the little tiny dollar in all different directions,” she said.
Bellesen has been featured in Forbes magazine. Her business background, combined with her flexible and adaptable nature, has enabled her to find success in the wholesale jewelry business.
Just last year, Bellesen supplied more than 10,000 pairs of earrings to 13 representatives around the country. At one point, she had more than 500 earring designs, but has since “scaled back” to 300.
“The bigger and better it gets, the more work it requires,” she said. “There’s only 24 hours in a day and I keep getting older.”
Bellesen, now 58, had hoped to operate her downtown shop until her retirement at 65, but said it’s time for a change.
“I’ve been working 32 days in a row and running myself right down,” she said. “I need to give myself a break. I did not choose to do my art as a business so I could make paperwork all day … I want to make art again. I need to feed my soul that hasn’t able to breathe for the past few years.”
Bellesen plans to keep her two studio assistants, Julie Ochota and Pam Sanders, as she focuses on her wholesale business.
“They are both amazing women who care as much about my little business as I do,” Bellesen said. “That is a very rare gift that I appreciate with all my heart.”
Bellesen, who is gearing up for a new chapter of her life, said she’s looking forward to having the time to again love what she does. She hopes to teach in the future, and plans to write a book on her craft.
“I love what I do. It brings a smile to people’s faces and makes them happy. That’s helping me overcome my sadness. I’ll miss working downtown. But I’m going to be taking better care of myself.”
She added, “Downtown Front Street is going through a wonderful renaissance and renewal. Kitchen Carousel, Beachside Gifts, Raevyn Blue [Antiques &Collectibles] — these are all business owners who just wanted to retire. That opens up new spaces for younger business owners to pursue their dreams.”
Wide Mouth Frog will offer a 50-percent-off sale beginning on Black Friday. For more information, go to www.shopwidemouthfrog.com, search Wide Mouth Frog on Facebook, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-265-0597.
— Sophie Bonomi is a reporter for the North Kitsap Herald. Contact her at sbonomi@northkitsap herald.com.
To read the Forbes article, “Expanding to Wholesale Jewelry with Pamela Bellesen,” go to www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2012/01/16/expanding-to-wholesale- jewelry-with-pamela- bellesen/#630b41b77ad5